Hanover on fire ... More than 100 per cent increase over last year
With more than 200 bush fires and 16 houses going up in flames in Hanover in the first three months of 2017, the parish's fire brigade, with its limited resources, is facing a challenge.
This year's figure represents a 100 per cent increase over the corresponding period last year, which was also quite challenging for firefighters.
The fire department, based on studies it has carried out, has concluded that the pervasive drought in the parish, faulty cooking equipment, arson and electrical short circuit are some of the causes for the dramatic increase in fires.
In an interview with The Gleaner, Raymond DeSouza, deputy superintendent in charge of the Hanover division of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, expressed concern about the number of fires, especially those affecting houses.
"This quarter, compared to last year, we have seen a considerable increase in the number of bush fires in the parish. Also, what is troubling for us, we have also seen a number of house fires, and despite our best efforts as it relates to public education campaign and sensitising the public in general about fire-prevention and safety measures, it seems like there is a reluctance to act on the information given," he said.
The deputy fire chief noted that firefighters are concerned that all of the house fires have occurred in the western end of the parish, particularly in Orange Bay, Green Island, Santoy and Logwood.
"We have intensified our efforts in our public education campaign in those areas, pleading with members of the public to act on the information passed on to them and to see how best we can minimise these fires", continued DeSouza.
He also pointed out that the estimated property loss as a result of the fires was valued at approximately $79 million, while the cost of property saved runs in the region of $18 billion.
"Most of these bush fires also come at a cost, as a number of farmers have lost their expected agricultural crops because of them," he said.
DeSouza said firefighters are paying serious attention to the drastic increase in fires in the parish, especially against the background that there are resource constraints.
"Fire prevention must be on the mind of every individual within the parish. As we go about our business, we must think and act safely. Householders, more so, must be mindful of the dangers of fires and put precautionary measures in place in their homes," DeSouza said.